The school year may be over, but the gardening season is just getting started. Thanks to the energy of community volunteers, school staff and a bunch of really excited kids, Mineral Point Elementary School is the proud new owner of 10 raised beds holding over 550 square feet of planting space. The garden, along with its neighbor, the Oak Savanna, was a stop on this spring’s Garden Tour.
In just two months a grassy hill leading to the lower parking lot on Cothern Street was transformed into a fenced, terraced garden complete with crushed gravel walkways and brick paver steps connecting the beds. The next phase, currently underway, is completing the drip irrigation system using rainwater captured from the roof of the school building.
The project has been welcomed with enthusiasm. Spinach salads were served in the lunchroom and on the last day of school the kids devoured all of the radishes. The garden has also become an outdoor classroom. “From the beginning, all the students have been excited about the concept of the project,” according to school nurse and garden committee chair Julie Pompos. “Students across all grade levels have participated in one way or another, including planting seeds indoors, transplanting seedlings into the garden, painting decorative bricks for plant markers and painting a garden bench.”
The school community had discussed a school garden before, but with the design and building expertise of master gardener Ryan Fox and seed money from the Wellness Committee and the Super Snacks for Super Kids cookbook project, the timing was right for the garden to become a reality.
Along with helping to cultivate and decorate the garden, the kids also watched the garden take shape while Ryan and volunteers built the garden. During recess comments like “Wow, you do good work,” “This is awesome!” and “Where did you learn how to do this?” were overheard.
In true Mineral Point spirit, local businesses – including Farmers Implement, Cummins, Shooting Star Farm, Mitchell’s Hardware, Mound City Bank, Sandstone Nursery, Ivey Construction and Shake Rag Alley – were generous with time, funds and supplies. Many families and school staff also pitched in, donating volunteer hours and money.
Harvesting will continue through the summer, and some of the bounty will be served as snacks during summer school. The students, who have voiced pride in knowing that they contributed to the production of such healthy food, will certainly benefit in the years to come from this impressive effort.
The school garden’s mission is to improve the health of the Mineral Point community by educating young children about gardening and sustainability, and improve nutrition through exposure to fresh fruits and vegetables. If you would like to assist with that mission by donating time, money or in-kind donations, email Julie Pompos at firstname.lastname@example.org
– Contributed by Susan Webb